And Three from Harmonia Mundi

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Program: #18-18, Air Date: 04/23/18

A young ensemble in an Italian garden, sacred music of Monteverdi, and Charpentier’s journey into hell with Orpheus.

 
 

I. Un jardin à l’italienne  (Les Arts Florissants/William Christie). Harmonia Mundi CD HAF 8905283.

 
 
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This concert was recorded live at the Melbourne Recital Centre in Australia within the framework of Le Jardin des Voix: the Academy launched by Les Arts Florissants in 2002 as a showcase for young talent.

William Christie and Paul Agnew, the co-directors of the Academy, are well known as fine teachers and indefatigable talent-spotters. Here they present six promising young singers, hitherto unknown to the general public, who were auditioned and recruited from almost 200 candidates.

"Love, hatred, jealousy, disenchantment and wrath are expressed by turns in 'Orlando furioso', probably the most influential text of that period. De Wert's madrigal 'Queste non son più lagrime' borrows lines from Ariosto's masterpiece, while Handel's Orlando and Vivaldi's Orlando furioso, excerpts from which are presented here, both take inspiration from it. If the first part of our recording describes the expressive powers of early Baroque, the second part is a light.

 
Banchieri:
Già che ridotti siamo
Cimarosa:
Vè che matta, maledetta! (from L'impresario in angustie)
Handel:
Ah Stigie larve! (from Orlando)
Lascia la spina (from Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno)
Haydn:
Scellerata! mancatrice! traditrice! (from La Canterina)
Son confuso e stupefatto (from Orlando paladino)
Sarro:
L'impresario delle Canarie, Intermezzi I & II
Stradella:
Amanti olà, olà!
Vecchi:
Fate Silentio
Vivaldi:
Ah sleale, ah spergiura...Io getto elmo, ed usbergo (from Orlando Furioso)
Gelosia, tu già rendi l’alma mia from Ottone in villa
Care pupille (from Tigrane)
Wert:
Queste non son più lacrime
 
 
 
 
 
II. Monteverdi: Selva morale e spirituale (Balthasar Neumann Choir & Ensemble/Pablo Heras-Casado). Harmonia Mundi CD HMM 902355.
 
 
I

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 Compared to the 1610 Vespers, the operas or the madrigals, Monteverdi’s Selva morale e spirituale has been rather poorly served on disc. Perhaps it’s the sheer scale of the project that includes some four hours of music; perhaps it’s the range of repertoire that spans from solo-voice chamber music to double-choir festal extravagance. Whatever the reason, there’s plenty of space for a new recording to supplement classic accounts by Les Arts Florissants and Cantus Cölln, and on the basis of this first selection from Pablo Heras-Casado and the Balthasar Neumann Choir and Ensemble I very much hope that this one-off release turns into a complete set.
 
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Framing the disc are the mighty Dixit Dominus secondo and the Magnificat primo – two works calculated to show off the force of the Balthasar Neumann musicians in full spate. Skimming the hairpin bends of Monteverdi’s shifting tempos, Heras-Casado delivers energised, highly rhythmic performances that always look and lean forwards to the next episode. He’s helped by superb engineering, which allows the instrumental forces to glow bright above the voices, the cornetts carving firework-like trails against the rich choral backdrop.

Speeds are swift and dances light, lending real urgency to the joyful works. Jubilet tota civitas for solo soprano and the soprano duet Ut queant laxis positively groove with delight, while the Et resurrexit struggles endearingly to contain its excitement. But while everything is nuanced, correct and very glossy indeed, there’s perhaps just a little too much uniformity, too much politeness to capture the true spirit of Monteverdi. Some rougher edges and a less controlled choral sound would give us those madrigalian colours that never sit far below the surface, even in the sacred music 

 From Gramophone: Compared to the 1610 Vespers, the operas or the madrigals, Monteverdi’s Selva morale e spirituale has been rather poorly served on disc. Perhaps it’s the sheer scale of the project that includes some four hours of music; perhaps it’s the range of repertoire that spans from solo-voice chamber music to double-choir festal extravagance. Whatever the reason, there’s plenty of space for a new recording to supplement classic accounts by Les Arts Florissants and Cantus Cölln, and on the basis of this first selection from Pablo Heras-Casado and the Balthasar Neumann Choir and Ensemble I very much hope that this one-off release turns into a complete set.
 
AdTech Ad

Framing the disc are the mighty Dixit Dominus secondo and the Magnificat primo – two works calculated to show off the force of the Balthasar Neumann musicians in full spate. Skimming the hairpin bends of Monteverdi’s shifting tempos, Heras-Casado delivers energised, highly rhythmic performances that always look and lean forwards to the next episode. He’s helped by superb engineering, which allows the instrumental forces to glow bright above the voices, the cornetts carving firework-like trails against the rich choral backdrop.

Speeds are swift and dances light, lending real urgency to the joyful works. Jubilet tota civitas for solo soprano and the soprano duet Ut queant laxis positively groove with delight, while the Et resurrexit struggles endearingly to contain its excitement. But while everything is nuanced, correct and very glossy indeed, there’s perhaps just a little too much uniformity, too much politeness to capture the true spirit of Monteverdi. Some rougher edges and a less controlled choral sound would give us those madrigalian colours that never sit far below the surface, even in the sacred music.

1 Dixit Dominus Secondo à 8 Voci Concertato Con Gli Stessi Istromenti Del Primo & Nel Medesimo Modo 7:47
2 Confitebor Secondo à 3 Voci Concertato Con Due Violini  
3 Iste Confessor Primo Sopra Ad Una Medesima Aria 2:30
4 O Ciechi, Ciechi Madrigale Morale à 5 Voci & Due Violini 3:05
5 Jubilet Tota Civitas à Voce Sola In Dialogo 4:19
6 Salve Regina à 3 Voci, Alto, Basso E Tenore O Soprano 6:06
7 Laudate Pueri Dominum Primo à 5 Concertato Con Due Violini 6:45
8 Laudate Dominum Terzo à 8 Voci 4:06
9 Ut Queant Laxis Sopra Lo Stesso Metro 3:00
10 Crucifixus à Quatro Voci, Basso, Tenore, Quinto & Alto 2:09
11 Et Resurrexit à Due Soprani O Tenori Con Due Violini 1:28
12 Et Iterum à 3 Voci, Basso & Due Contralti, Concertato Con Quattro Tromboni O Viole Da Brazzo Quali Si Ponno Anco Lasciare 1:26
13 Voi Ch'ascoltate Madrigale Morale à 5 Voci & Due Violini 4:34
14 Salve Regina à 2 Voci, Due Tenori O Due Soprani 5:54
15 Magnificat Primo à 8 Voci & Due Violini & Quattro Viole Overo Quattro Tromboni Quali In Acidente Si Ponno Lasciare 12:27
 

 III. La Descente d’Orpheé aux Enfers (Ensemble Correspondances/ Sébastien Daucé). Harmonia Mundi CD HMM 902279.

 
La descente d'Orphée aux Enfers

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Until Charpentier, the myth of Orpheus had never provided the subject matter for an opera in French.He repaired the omission with this fascinating little gem on the margins of the large-scale tragédie lyrique. Charpentier offers us here a myth left in suspension, without a resolution, a carefree and happy ‘descent’ that consecrates Orpheus’ song and the enchanting power of music. A poetic experience amid the depths of night.
  
From The Guardian: The descent of Orpheus into the underworld, a familiar subject taken from Ovid and celebrating the power of music, was turned into a two-act opera around 1686-7 by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, better known for his sacred music. This short drama, possibly unfinished, was written for the 10 singers employed by Charpentier’s Parisian patron, Madame de Guise – here the Ensemble Correspondances directed by Sébastien Daucé. Orphée is cast for countertenor (Robert Getchell), offset by the dark colours of three accompanying bass viols. Throughout, the writing is rich, unusual yet immediate. Orpheus’s journey through the underworld in search of Eurydice is memorably expressive.
 
Benjamin Dunham in Early Music America:

CD REVIEW — Ensemble Correspondances, formed in 2009, made its North American debut at the 2017 Boston Early Music Festival this past June. Based on its recording of La Descente d’Orphée aux Enfers by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704), I’m sorry I didn’t get to hear them. Boston, under its director, Sébastien Daucé, the French group performed Charpentier’s Litanies & Pastorale sur la naissance de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ. But bringing over La Descente would have connected better with another performance at the festival — the “Orfeo nell’inferi” scene in Campra’s Le Carnaval de Venise — and provided a point of comparison with BEMF’s own La Descente productions presented in 2011 and 2013. These, like Campra’s opera-ballet, imagined the story of Orpheus and Eurydice in the midst of a wrap-around composition. We would, ominously, have had two Plutos strutting stages in Boston, not to mention the Lucifer of Handel’s La Resurrezione.

Written in 1686, 13 years before La Carnaval, Charpentier’s chamber opera ends with Orpheus and Eurydice setting out on their hoped-for return to daylight. The Boston festival’s production guessed that Charpentier’s work was left incomplete because of Lully’s stranglehold on the production of French opera. Ensemble Correspondances allows for another interpretation, one that is focused intentionally on the success of Orpheus in beguiling Pluto and the underworld shades to release Euridice into his care.

In support of this approach, it seems that the work may have been performed by the musicians and singers in the employ of Mademoiselle de Guise, Marie de Lorraine. We even know the part assignments for the performance; Charpentier saved the role of Ixion, one of the three Guilty Souls, for himself! Recorder players will be pleased to know that patron saint Étienne Loulié was in the band, along with recorder colleagues, the brothers Antoine and Pierre Pièche. Their parts are played with great panache by Lucile Perret and Matthew Bertaud.

Sébastien Daucé (Photo courtesy of Ensemble Correspondance)

Sébastien Daucé (Photo courtesy of Ensemble Correspondance)

Along with these two, the members of Ensemble Correspondances seem to get everything right: easily swinging inégales, perfectly weighted appogiature, crisp articulation of text, and overall dramatic impersonation. Caroline Weynants sings Eurydice with a lovable, honey-clear soprano. Robert Getchell’s high tenor, always accompanied by a halo of strings (think Jesus in St. Matthew Passion), has the appropriate amount of douleur, both for expressing Orpheus’s loss of Eurydice when she is bitten by a snake and for winning sympathy from Pluto and Proserpina in the underworld; as the three Guilty Souls sing: “Quelle touchante vois” (What a touching voice). Étienne Bazola as Apollo has the kind of commanding baritone any Orpheus would follow. Nicolas Brooymans as Pluto intones his part with an edgy bass that almost no one would think of challenging.

Perhaps one day some musicologist will become famous for discovering Charpentier’s third act for La Descente d’Orphée aux Enfers. For now, we can appreciate the ambiguities of the work as it exists and enjoy this sensitive and persuasive recorded performance.

Former EMAg editor Benjamin Dunham has reviewed recordings for The Washington Post and Musical America.

Composer Info

Banchieri, Cimarosa, Handel, Haydn, Sarro, Monteverdi, Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704)

CD Info

CD HAF 8905283, CD HMM 902355, CD HMM 902279.